Arkansas hosts Western Kentucky on Saturday. As a 2-point favorite.
Let that sink in.
The Hilltoppers are 5-4, a middling team in a low-rent FBS conference. But they may just sneak out of Razorback Stadium on Saturday with an SEC notch on their belts. And in exclusively Razorback fashion, they would do it with a former Hog at quarterback. A former Hog who wasn’t so much discarded last December as forced to acknowledge the writing on the wall when Chad Morris and staff actively recruited transfer QBs following a horrible season that entailed less-than-stellar QB play.
Ty Storey didn’t win the job at WKU but took over midseason when the starter went down, and he’s looked pretty serviceable since. That following a 2018 campaign in which Storey struggled for the Hogs as the most-of-the-time starter forced to scramble for his life behind a deficient offensive line. On paper, Arkansas certainly upgraded with the Storey-Cole Kelley for Ben Hicks-Nick Starkel trade. But it’s likely safe to assume most Hog fans would trade back for Storey given the travails seen this season behind center.
As recently suggested by veteran scribe and Hog chronicler Jim Harris, we could be paying the price for that brief dance with the devil that gave us back-to-back top 10 finishes almost a decade ago. Is the price for fleeting national relevance really so steep in Arkansas?
Meanwhile, it finally appears the reins of the Razorback offense have been handed to the freshmen, one of whom represents the program’s most heralded QB recruit in, well, a long time. Will it be enough? The offense could finally groove a little, but embarrassed last week by a mediocre-at-best Mississippi State team, the defense remains outmanned. The degree to which that will be the case on Saturday is the $12 million question. Have the players let go? Will they “play” for Morris, the seeming lame duck with one foot out the door, according to message-board prophets who lay claim to BOT insider info.
Common sense, though, would suggest that a loss on Saturday may cost Morris his job. If it does, that would mean Hunter Yurachek and the Razorback Foundation had raised the private money to pay Morris’ buyout. But Morris remains the coach – therefore new-coach speculation remains inappropriate outside board fodder – and Western Kentucky remains the last realistic shot for a win. (Missouri in Little Rock, maybe, depending on what happens Saturday and how the team competes in Baton Rouge.)
Consecutive 2-10/0-8s, though…hard to imagine Morris coming back, even with a new staff. Maybe even at 3-9. But that’s where we are right now, folks. Our program remains top 25 all-time in D1, despite this historic run through the valley, but at this moment in time it’s never been lower — in results, in reputation, in mindset. The last 25 years have seen some highs – three SEC West titles, Petrino’s back-to-back Sugar and Cotton bowls. But mainly, they’ve yielded only mediocrity, and lately plain ol’ badness. Granted, if we played anywhere other than the SEC, things could’ve been different. But we don’t. And sadly, the last two seasons, we probably wouldn’t have competed at a high level in any Power 5 league.
So, will the players be sparked by John Stephen Jones and (hopefully, please Lord, mostly) K.J. Jefferson? Will the D show a pulse? Will more than 40,000 show up? Will a win — and improvement record-wise over 2018 — make a difference for Morris’ future on the Hill?
We’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s go with the Hogs, 38-34.